Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi

I finished reading The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi. This is the second book in a trilogy. I finished the first book--The Quantum Thief--last December.

Like the first book, The Fractal Prince uses a long list of terms without much context or any explanation. Slowly, I got a sense of what most of the terms meant. I won't pretend that I understood everything that was going on or was able to visualize everything. It probably would have helped if I had read the two books closer together.

Also like the first book, there a number of very different ideas. These include: "wildcode" which appears to be a combination of nanotechnology and software that can infect systems and people; phrases that are embedded with a dense amount of information; and disembodied jinnis (Islam for genies). Some of the technology used in the book is so far advanced that it is on the edge of comprehensibility.

One phrase that kept rolling around in my head after reading the book is that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I think that the smart phone is a great example of this concept. With a smart phone in my pocket, I have a GPS, maps, a camera and a video camera. I can send text messages and email, make a phone call and even video chat. I can sit and watch almost every NFL game on Directv. I can search the web for an incredible store of knowledge. To anyone from 500 years ago, most of this would be incomprehensible. It is hard to imagine where technology is going to go in the next 500 years. As an aside, I am notorious with my in-laws for searching for information on my smart phone while we are discussing different topics.

It appears that the book uses some stylistic elements from the Arabian Nights {Note to self - buy a copy of the Arabian Nights three volume set). I enjoyed the book as a light entertaining read. It was a nice thought provoking diversion from some of the more serious books that I have been reading. I don't think accessible as the first book.

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